A difficult conversation is any conversation that you want to and/or need to have for which you have a degree of hesitation/concern/anxiety/worry/stress/fear etc.We are faced with such conversations all the time – both at work and in life.

Whilst eliminating all the anxiety surrounding such conversations may be difficult, there is a way to make such conversations easier.

Here is my 7 step system for having difficult conversations:

1. Decide 

The biggest source of stress surrounding difficult conversations is the indecision – most of us drive ourselves crazy trying to decide whether or not to have the conversation in the first place. So the most important first step is to decide once and for all to HAVE the conversation.

2. Schedule it

A decision is only real if the conversation is scheduled in your diary.

3. Frame and Seek Permission 

Set up the conversation for success, by

  • framing the conversation in a non-threatening and objective way
  • seeking permission from the other person e.g. “Would you be willing to have a conversation about …?”

This should be done both at the time of scheduling it, and also when you start the dialogue.

4. Seek first to understand…

You must not only listen FIRST, but listen to learn the others’ perspective, and not to protect your own position.

5. …..then to be understood 

Share your views, but in the context of new information that may be uncovered in step 4. Entertain different possibilities and explanations. Use “I” language (“I felt…”) as opposed to “You” language (“You made me feel…”).

6. Look for a Win-Win Solution 

What a resolution looks like may vary depending on the nature of the specific conversation, however try and find a resolution that works for both parties.

7. Kaizen it! 

Kaizen is the Japanese term for “change for good” or continuous improvement. Based on this conversation, are there any “systemic” solutions/agreements that could both avoid such conversations in the future and/or enable speedy resolutions.

Is there an important conversation you’ve been avoiding, that you can apply this system to?

Love to hear your thoughts – please leave a comment here on what has worked for you…